Ethics bill placed on LA agenda

| 29/01/2014

(CNS):Following the revelations in the auditor general’s most recent reports that there is a failure among government departments, and in particular its statutory authorities and government companies, regarding ethics and values, the passage of the Standards in Public Life bill will come as a rude awakening for some board members and government employees. The bill is set down on today’s agenda, when members of the Legislative Assembly meet at the country’s parliament to debate this as well as two police bills. The long awaited ethics law will raise the bar for everyone who has a part to play in government. Replacing the Register of Interest Law, it will widen the net of public officers who will need to disclose their interests.

All public officers holding the post of heads of departments, sections and units or more senior positions plus those acting in those positions, as well as board members of statutory authorities, government companies and constitutionally created commissions, candidates nominated for election, and both elected and official members will all need to declare their interests.

“This bill ensures that conflicts of interests are properly addressed,” said Alden McLaughlin, the premier of the Cayman Islands. “I think this is a very important piece of legislation and part of the infrastructure of good governance.”

Divided into eight parts dealing with standards in public life, conflicts of interest, register of interest, powers of investigations, and the appointment, responsibilities and compensation of boards, the bill formerly adopts the seven principles of public life, known as the Nolan Principles.

This required public servants to follow principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

“The bill is needed to ensure businesses and investors who want to do business in the Cayman Islands that persons in public life are held to the highest standards; therefore, reducing the opportunity for corruption,” McLaughlin said in a release from his office on the eve of the legislation coming before the Assembly.

Certain of passage, the law has been in the works for some four years after the 2009 Constitution established a Commission for Standards in Public Life to supervise the operation of registers and to investigate breaches of established standards in public life. The law, once passed, will enable that commission to meet its constitutional mandate.

“It’s taken a long time to come, but this administration is determined that we pass this legislation to ensure good governance in the Cayman Islands,” McLaughlin added.
The bill will require that within 90 days of assuming office and annually thereafter anyone with any responsibility in public life to declare their income, assets and liabilities, not just for themselves now but for connected people and family members.

In the case of candidates for elections, the declaration must be made before filing nomination papers. Annual declarations will be made within 30 days of the last day of June, beginning on 30 June, 2014, and will be available for public inspection at the Commission Secretariat. It is anticipated that the Commission will also make them available via its website.

This will be a huge improvement on the current situation regarding political representatives. While they do fill in forms that are filed at the Legislative Assembly, anyone wishing to see must make an appointment and no one is allowed to make any copies of the documents contained in the file.

The bill also covers the appointment of board members to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and integrity to carry out the duties required of the position in a highly competent and politically neutral manner and that they also avoid any direct conflicts. Members of boards will be required to include in a declaration any interest where there is a possible or perceived conflict with their function on the relevant board.

Outlining how to handle conflicts that arise during the course of a meeting or a person in public life’s day-to-day work, the bill also allows for the removal of board members in instances where it is unsuitable for that person to continue to serve or a conflict of interest has arisen that would bring disrepute to the board.

Once passed, the law will give the commission powers of investigation over people suspected of  breaching the law, based on the commission’s own initiative or from allegations made to the commission. The commission will be able to summon witnesses, require the production of reports, documents, etc, and take any other such necessary actions needed. Another important factor is the lawful protection of whistle-blowers, as detailed in the Freedom of Information Law.

It will be an offence to refuse to make a declaration, file a false declaration or fail to provide or provide false information to the commission during an enquiry. The bill allows for fines ranging from $100 a day to $50,000 and/or terms of imprisonment of two years depending on the breach. A member of the Legislative Assembly may be suspended from sitting and voting if ordered by the Assembly for a breach of the bill.

See bill attached

Category: Politics

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Will declaration of lodge membership be required as is the case in the UK?

  2. The Parliamentarian says:

    This sounds like a giant step forward!  And it's about time.  Will it work?  Maybe…… if it's duly enforced by the legislature, but it's still like having the fox taking care of the chickens.  It's extremely difficult enforcing any law concerning the lawmakers.  XXXX

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ethics can wait….lets have the Government get some jobs for us poor starving Caymanians out here…work on inward investment!! 

    • Anonymous says:

      Ethics CANNOT wait. You have been deprived of an abundance of jobs because of so much corruption. How can you not see that??

    • Anonymous says:

      Starving with internet access. Very interesting.

  4. female x says:

    What about situational ethics?  Ethics based on the situation. There is a famine in the land and the rich are hoarding their wealth. My children need food. So I will have to climb over John Doe's fence and steal in order to maintain them. Nobody speaks about changes of circumstances. The law don't see it. That is why I hate so many police officers. They talk so much about absolute ethics. Theyre so wired or programmed to think one way with no discretion like toy soldiers. šŸ™‚

  5. Anonymous says:

    How can candidates file a declaration when the electoral laws of the country use words other than in their ordinary meaning?  For example "study" means "work for money in a big foreign law firm".

  6. Anonymous says:

    The existing anti-corruption and criminal laws are routinely violated or ignored anyway. Another law isn't going to change anything. The only way things will change is if there is rigorous enforcement.  Some people need to be made examples of and sent to jail. Until that happens there will be no respect for the laws.